Physical fitness is assessed by measuring various fitness components including muscular strength and muscular endurance. While strength is the most amount of weight that you can lift once, muscular endurance measures how many times you can lift lighter weights or perform an exercise using your body weight as resistance. Push-ups have been a time tested measure of upper body muscular endurance. From gym class to boot camp, push-ups is a preferred method for demonstrating your physical fitness level.
Your muscles consist of individual muscle fibers that contract, or shorten to exert force for movement against a set resistance in the form of a free weight, weight machine, body weight or gravity. When exerting force against a lighter weight, not all of your muscle fibers are recruited. You can continue to repeat the movement, using additional muscle fibers are until your muscles have reached fatigue. When measuring muscular endurance, your test score is the number of repetitions that you can perform.
There are several types of tests for muscular endurance. First, you can use a fixed percentage of your body weight to perform an exercise. For example, if you weigh 150 lb. the amount of times you can bench press half of your weight or 75 lb would be measured. Next, you can use a percentage of the most amount of weight you can lift once. If you can bench press 200 lb., the amount of times you can lift half of the weight, or 100 lb. would be measured. An absolute muscular endurance test utilizes a set resistance for all. For example, the time it takes you to carry a 100 lb. weight 100 yards would be measured. Finally, calisthenic-type test measure the amount of repetitions you can do using your body weight as resistance.
The number of push-ups performed is a common measure of muscular fitness requiring proper technique as well as upper body strength. Age has been determined to be a factor as passing scores decrease with age. For example, an excellent score for a 20 year old male is 47 push-ups, for a 40 year old male is 34 push-ups, and a 60 year old male is 30 push-ups. The world record for non-stop push-ups is 10,507 push-ups. This was set in 1980 by Minoru Yoshida, of Japan.
Initial assessments of muscular endurance provide a baseline for comparison when participating in a fitness program. Ongoing testing is useful in assessing fitness gains with training programs. Benefits of increased muscular endurance include increased lean body mass with decreased body fat. In addition, increases in connective tissue strength and joint stability reduce the risk for injury.
Modifications for muscular endurance tests are important for individuals with a history of injuries, back problems or at low fitness levels. Proper form and technique is crucial for reducing the risk of injury with testing. First time exercisers should consult a physician prior to starting an exercise program or participating in fitness testing.